Your diet need not be entirely plant-based to reap the benefits of eating more plants. This includes things like fruits and vegetables, of course, but also whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. And considering most Americans don’t get the recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber, and that the fruit and vegetable intake in the standard American diet is low and getting lower, chances are we could all make an effort to do better. Shall we?
If your answer to that rhetorical question was not an enthusiastic, ‘We shall!,’ let us share with you 5 reasons why we love a mostly plant-based diet:
1. Fiber. A blood sugar stabilizer, fiber adds bulk which functions to keep you feeling fuller for longer. It also promotes healthy digestion. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes can all contribute to your overall daily fiber intake. *QUICK TIP: Wash, but don’t peel your fruits and veggies. Stripping away the outer layer also strips away a large concentration of nutrient density, including fiber. Eat the skin to significantly increase fiber intake compared to eating the flesh alone.
2. Water. Plants have a high water content, which can contribute toward your daily intake. Good news for those of you who struggle to stay hydrated, eh? Unfortunately, plants can’t replace your plain water intake entirely, but they can help you out. Fruits with the highest water contents include watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe and peaches. Cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, radish, celery, tomato, green cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, spinach and broccoli top the veggie category.
3. Volume. Most non-starchy plants (e.g. fibrous vegetables and low sweet fruits) are naturally low in both fat and calories which, coupled with a high content of both fiber and water, allows you to eat a large quantity of these foods without sabotaging your efforts to attain or maintain a lean physique. Eat more, for less [cals] to lose or maintain your weight and burn fat.
4. Antioxidants. Most plants contain polyphenols, or compounds that have antioxidant activity, which function to protect your cells from free radical damage and can slow the aging process. Free radicals can compromise cell function, and increase your risk of disease. Polyphenols can positively impact your gut microbiome, boost healthy bacteria (and mood!) and promote a healthy weight. All berries, a variety of vegetables and some nuts, also herbs and spices, are easy ways to boost the healthy antioxidants in your diet. DID YOU KNOW? Polyphenols are fat-soluble, which means you should eat them along with a source of healthy fat for optimal absorption.
… and acid-base balance. Animal protein connoisseurs, listen up! Too much protein, especially of the animal and dairy variety, creates an extremely acidic environment in the body. Fortunately, we can combat some of this by choosing high quality (e.g. hormone-, antibiotic- and pesticide-free; grass-fed; pasture-raised; organic; raw; wild) and sustainably-sourced animal proteins, a nutrient-dense diet with plenty of alkaline-forming foods (fresh veggies, some fruits) and avoiding [acid-producing] processed foods as best we can (because, JERF).
5. Budget – Adopting a plant-based diet can help you to save money. High quality animal protein can have a place in any healthy diet, but it can add up. Shop the sales, buy frozen or find a local rancher (and save BIG!), but also try to incorporate one meatless meal a week. Come up with a recipe we need to know about? Let us know!
… and 5 ways to actually get it done:
1. Swap one meal daily for a giant chopped salad. If nothing else, it allows you to knock out multiple servings of veggies in one sitting. We love the OXO salad chopper, which can take volumes of veggies (and all the fixins’ - plenty of protein and healthy fats, for satisfaction) down to nothing to increase palatability and, so that you get a taste of each ingredient in every bite. Oh, and we like to eat our salads out of mixing bowls with a spoon :) Try it, and let us know what you think!
2. Add greens to a shake. Add spinach or kale, fresh or frozen, for a healthy dose of green in your protein smoothie. Frozen greens will function to thicken your shake, and help it to take on an ice cream-like consistency. Mmmmm!
3. Pasta swap. Swap your pasta for lower carb gluten- and grain-free zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or broccoli slaw in a pseudo pasta bowl and/or add veggies (meat, optional) to your favorite organic tomato or marinara sauce. Add nutritional yeast or a sprinkle of almond cheese for “cheesy” dairy-free deliciousness!
5. Swap your sugary after dinner dessert for a single serving of homemade trail mix (recipe below), or a mindful spoonful of your favorite nut butter - we love NuttZo! Bear in mind that nuts and seeds, while healthy, are still calorically dense. And, like with anything, too much of a good thing is still too much. Read your labels, avoid added sugars and look for short, easy-to-pronounce ingredient lists.
DIY TRAIL MIX
Equal proportions of the following:
• Unsweetened coconut flakes
• Sunflower seeds
• Cacao nibs
• Sliced almonds
*Serving size = 1/4 cup
FYI: We love the bulk section at Whole Foods for fresh trail mix ingredients. Colorado friends - swing by the refrigerated section of your local store and treat your tastebuds to Vukoo! None CO #fitfam, don’t miss out ===> here.
"Top 5 Reasons to Eat More Plants, And 5 How-To’s"; by Vukoo®